Magic Mipit Monday: Blakehill Farm, 21st September 2020

I started ringing at Blakehill Farm in 2014. In those days the central plateau was cut in late July, after any Curlew would have fledged, for hay or silage. Meadow Pipits were regularly caught in small numbers, but the largest catch we had in the years up to and including 2016 was 8 birds. In 2017 the regime changed and the plateau, whilst grazed by cattle in the growing season, is left uncut throughout the rest of the year. As a result, every autumn since there has been a huge irruption of insects, particularly crane flies. Since then September has been a key month for the species at this site. In 2017 we caught 45 birds in two sessions (28 and 17); in 2018 it was 112 (93 and 19); not so many in 2019: 79 (32 and 47). Today we caught 109 of them in our one session. This is the single largest catch since the group split at the beginning of 2013: it is also the second largest catch ever of the species by the group since 2000. The only larger catch was around the filter beds at the Marlborough Sewage Works back in December 2010. That site went with the North Wilts group.

Jonny Cooper and I started early, setting the nets adjacent to the plateau bushes from 5:30. We had them open by the time it got light. We then set up what is known in the trade as a Mipit triangle. This is three 12m nets set in a, surprise, surprise, open triangle. An MP3 player is set at the back of the triangle with Meadow Pipit call playing. It is a very effective catching method. However, if we caught all of the birds that come and sit on the top string of the nets we would probably triple the catch. It was very effective, although there were so many flying around that we caught them in all of our plateau nets.

The other significant catch was a single bird: a House Martin. The first we have caught there in 5 years. They have never been abundant at the site, where Swallows appear in great numbers. We had only caught 2 prior to this date: both in September, one in 2014 and the other in 2015, so this is a pretty special bird for us – it came to the same lure that we used at New Zealand Farm last Monday.

Last year was our first blank year for Whinchat since we caught them for the first time in 2015. We had 2 at the end of August, another 2 at the last session and 5 more today. Clearly they are still coming through on migration. Stonechat numbers are on a par with previous years. We also had a small fall of Chiffchaff, all juveniles.

The list for the session was: House Martin 1; Blue Tit 2; Meadow Pipit 109; Stonechat 3; Whinchat 5; Chiffchaff 9; Reed Bunting 7(1). Totals: 136 birds ringed from 7 species and 1 bird retrapped.

Even the retrap was of interest: it was a Reed Bunting, but not on our rings. Most often they have flown over from the Cotswold Water Park, but the details have not yet been entered into the online database. I shall look forward to finding out where it was ringed.

%d bloggers like this: